Soho Noir Q&A

What led you to a life of Crime?
A youthful devotion to Agatha Christie and to baffling mysteries.

The picturesque landscape of the Lake District contrasts greatly with the somewhat disturbing nature of the crimes featured. Did this opposition between beauty and brutality configure in the descision to set some of your novels there?
Yes, Sherlock Holmes and W.H. Auden pointed out the drama in the contrast between tranquil setting and violent crime – and they were dead right.

Do you have a favourite Crime novel or Author?
Ruth Rendell’s ‘A Fatal Inversion’ and Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’.

Is your narrative driven by character or plot and do you ever feel that you have to conform to a certain writing style or formula.
As I’ve become more confident with plotting, exploring character has become the central feature of my books. Setting’s important, too.

How much does Harry Devlin or any of your other characters have in common with you (if anything)?
Like Harry, I’m a lawyer, and like Daniel Kind in the Lakes books, I went to Oxford. Apart from that, not a lot in common. Harry is braver than me, that’s for sure.

You edited an anthology of short fiction for the CWA called Green for Danger. Were you a fan of the Christianna Brand novel of the same name? We just ask because we have heard wonderful things about it but have never found a copy to read ourselves.
It’s a classic whodunit with a brilliant wartime setting and I strongly recommend it. I borrowed the title as a tongue in cheek tribute (the anthology had a countryside theme.)

The Lazarus Widow was a novel that was started by Bill Knox and which you finished after his death. However, we’ve read it and couldn’t notice any obvious joins. How difficult was it to achieve this and was it hard to adapt to someone else’s writing style?
It was a huge challenge, but great fun. And I’m delighted you couldn’t spot the joins!

As well as writing novels, you are a partner in a soliciter’s firm, and write everything from books on emplyment law to book reviews. How do you find the time and is it difficult to juggle all the different aspects of your life?
It’s not that easy, but I’m passionate about my crime writing, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And life is short. So I just try to ‘go for it’…

Are there any tips you give aspiring authors (like ourselves).
Have faith in yourselves. Even if nobody else does. And stick at it.

Could you tell us a bit about your next book and does it by any chance need a couple of characters called Joe and Megan?
The next Lakes book, ‘The Arsenic Labyrinth’, is already finished. But the next Harry Devlin, ‘Waterloo Sunset’, is crying out for two characters with those names. Only question is: will one or both of them be a murderer?

(As featured in Foyles Bookshop’s crime newsletter Soho Noir – with thanks to Joe and Megan!)